Beretta may leave after Maryland passes strict gun control law

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield,Gun Control

ANNAPOLIS -- With one of the strictest gun control measures in the nation awaiting Gov. Martin O'Malley's signature, some Maryland officials are worried that major firearms manufacturer Beretta will leave its longtime home in Prince George's County.

In the runup to the bill's passage Thursday night, the company had expressed concern with the measure, which bans many of the firearms that Beretta manufactures.

"We are confronted with a state government that wants to ban our products at a time, by the way, when numerous other state governments are courting our investment," Beretta General Counsel Jeff Reh told lawmakers in February. "Not surprisingly, we are concerned."

Reh said Friday that Beretta is withholding further comment until O'Malley signs the bill.

During debate before final passage of the bill on Thursday, lawmakers worried that the gun giant would leave the state if the measure became law.

Concern over Beretta's potential departure led the Senate to amend the bill to make it clear that licensed manufacturers could still produce, ship, possess, store and sell banned assault weapons. They would be allowed to repair and transport the firearms of out-of-state gun owners, as well.

Beretta USA employs 400 Marylanders and is headquartered in Accokeek. Reh said the company has paid $31 million in taxes to the state and has invested $73 million over the last several decades.

Despite the hand-wringing, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties -- an admitted gun owner who says he has an "arsenal" -- said he isn't worried that Beretta will leave.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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